Kauai Committee’s Women’s History Celebration

Posted on May 11, 2016 in Main

The Committee on the Status of Women invite the community to gather each year in March at the Kaua‘i Museum, to honor a woman who has helped make history. The national Women’s History Month theme was “2016 honors women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.”

KauaiCommissionThis year they chose to honor women representing different cultural groups that helped build Kaua’i into the rich, blended community that inspires current generations.

Norma Doctor Sparks, president of Families First Hawai’i Services, Inc., spoke representing growing up on Kaua’i in the Filipino community.

Aletha Goodwin Kaohi, manager of the West Kaua’i Visitor Center in Waimea shared fascinating stories about growing up in the Hawaiian community on the West Side.

The Japanese community was well represented by Dimples Kano, Realtor and former head of the Kaua’i Board of Realtors, and one of the first female Realtors on Kaua’i.  Jenny Yukimura, a retired social worker.

The Chinese community was more reticent about promoting themselves, and when asked, referred the Committee to yet another woman, “more fitting” to speak. Geri Q. L. Young, MD, pediatrician with Kaua’i Medical Clinic agreed to take time after her busy workday to share her story.

Susan Remoaldo, retired head librarian for the Waimea library, spoke on behalf of the Portuguese  community.

Despite the windy day, a small crowd gathered in the courtyard, where Cindy Combs played slack key music. In a talk-story-like venue, inspiring stories began to emerge.  Some inspired laughter while others a respect and appreciation for the hard work of their elders and mothers. Each woman spoke to navigating the limitations of the times and using their cultural strengths to achieve success.

“Even though I came from a traditional Filipino family, I had a mother who was very at home anywhere. One of the things she did was encourage us to do anything we wanted to do and be whoever we wanted to be,” said Norma Doctor Sparks

“My parents were educated and that’s why it was easy for me. I’m grateful to my two grandmothers who weren’t as fortunate. They left school in first and third grade to help care for their families, and my generation is so grateful for all they sacrificed,” shared Geri Young, MD

“The Portuguese were the only group of immigrants who came here as entire family groups.  So they brought their food, their churches, their music and their customs as an intact community.  That is why so many customs survived.  It was many years before I learned that the food I was eating was actually Portuguese,” noted Susan Remoaldo.

Dimples Kano shared that it was quite a journey from learning accounting and bookkeeping to becoming the first female Realtor® and then head of the Kaua’i Board of Realtors.  She has won many certifications and awards, through her hard work and following the rules.

Jenny Yukimura told the story of how the devotion of her very affectionate mother, balanced the very strict Japanese father.  When dating was frowned on, she went with a friend on a double date.  Her mother had a cover story for her dad about writing an article for the high school paper and that was why her daughter had to go. The touching memories affected all.

“I had many mentors throughout my life, but the most important one was my father. All the Hawaiian culture, tradition and history I learned was from him. I learned that being a Hawaiian woman is all about aloha,” said Aletha Goodwin Kaohi.  Ms. Kaohi was a spellbinding and gifted story teller, and the entire audience wanted a longer event.


This article was produced with the assistance of Edie Ignacio Neumilller, Erika Valente, and Virginia Beck, members of the Committee on the Status of Women.